“Is this a tragedy?” John Piper asked an audience of 50,000 young people when he spoke of two 80 year old ladies, Ruby a nurse and Laura a retired doctor, who were killed instantly when their car went over a cliff in the Cameroons, where they were serving as missionaries.
I continued to watch the video of John Piper where he said, “What happened to these two ladies was no tragedy. But this is a tragedy.”
And then he told the story from a Readers’ Digest article about a couple aged 59 and 61, who took early retirement to live in a coastal development in Florida, USA to spend their time cruising on their trawler, playing softball and collecting sea shells.
And John Piper challenged his audience not to waste their lives, and reminded them that there will come a day where they will stand before the creator of the universe and give an account of their lives. And on that day will we describe how we pursued our personal dreams and pleasures or will we be able to say that we lived for God’s glory? (1.)
What a contrast. Ruby and Laura in their eighties going from village to village serving the sick and the poor in one of the most unreached places in the world compared to two early retirees spending their time collecting sea shells and cruising on their boat. The truth of these stories is that we all get choices as to how we live our lives, but we must also live with the consequences of our choices.
Recently, my attention was stirred as I was reading about the plans the apostle Paul was making as he wrote to the Christians in Rome. He wrote: “I have been longing for many years to visit you. I plan to do so when I go to Spain.” Romans 15:23-24. What struck me about Paul’s plans was that he did complete the journey to Rome, but there is no record that he ever made it as far as Spain. He lived his life in such a way that his plans would outlive him. His plans would get to be fulfilled by another at a later date. Possibly one of his mission partners would take the seed that was sown in Paul’s plans and plant that seed in Spain after Paul’s passing.
I was stirred by this thought and started to reflect on the different types of plans we all get to make with the unfolding of our lives. In my journaling I wrote down four types of plans in which each of us might describe the way we are living our lives.
- LITTLE PLANS : These are the plans that do no more than help us to live from day to day and usually result in people living a wasted life with nothing of real value to show for the multiple days that have been entrusted to them. John Piper would call the lives in this category a tragedy.
- LIMITED PLANS : People in this category make plans for a limited part of their lives up to a certain cut off date, which is usually called ‘retirement’. Following retirement, people in the limited plans category feel that they have earned the right to break free and do their own thing.
- LIFE LONG PLANS : People who qualify for this category never stop planning to live a fruitful life of service for the Lord as long as they have the strength and life to do so.
- LONGER THAN LIFE PLANS : But there is another category. This category describes those who have lived their lives in such a way, that the impact of their lives will live on long after they have died. These are the people who have planned their lives in such a way that they will impact future generations that they will never see and geographic locations that they will never be able to go to in their own lifetime. As Paul spent his life investing in the generation that was to follow him, and as he made plans to extend the gospel to nations he might never reach, he was setting up a strategy that would see him qualify for the longer than life category. And Paul was following in the footsteps of his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, whose longer than life plans were to reach the whole world. He didn’t achieve this in His lifetime on earth but He spent three years of His life training twelve men to build on the foundation that he began and that we get to continue today.
As I finished reading about Paul’s plan that he included in his letter to the Romans, I wrote these questions, “What are the longer than life plans that God has entrusted to me?” or “What does my Spain look like?” And I reflected on my years of ministry, past, present and future, and I determined that I would continue to make plans that would impact the present world in which I live and also plans that would outlive my life and impact future generations. Just to remind me, Sue and I were guided to the home in which we now live some 2 years ago and it just happens to be located in Legacy Crescent.
So take time to choose well as you set out on the journey to the rest of your life.
- Make plans that will outlive your life.
- Discern what it means to live for things that are eternal. Invest your life in people.
- Be a good steward of the whole of your life that God has entrusted to you.
- Find a mentor who can model for you what it means to outlive your life.
- Don’t let the good things get in the way of the best things.
- Remember that you will always have a heavenly audience of one to encourage you and welcome you home at the end of it all.
- Hold on to the fact that God uses ordinary people who make themselves available to Him, so that He might do extraordinary things in their lives.
(1.) (Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper is available on line and in bookstores)